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    Are esports players athletes? Here's what Shaq has to say

    May 29, 2022

    EVEN WITH his outsize presence in the basketball world, Shaquille O’Neal has had some moments in the esports scene as well.

    Back in 2016, Shaq exchanged friendly banter with British esports journalist Duncan “Thorin” Shields. In addition, he became one of the early sporting icons who invested in esports, pouring his financial resources on NRG Esports.

    As to why he devoted his resources to esports? Shaq believed that it was the future, as he said in an interview with the Philadelphia Tribune.

    But his praises on esports extends to players as well. Here's Shaq in an interview with Full Squad Gaming, when asked if he considers esports pros as athletes.

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    “I do and I want to commend you guys and I’m proud of you guys,” said the NBA legend.

    Shaq explains why esports players are athletes

    Shaq emphasized the mental aspect of esports.

    “Athlete means different things, but athlete means here,” he said, pointing to his forehead.

    He recalled his reality TV show, where he pitted himself against other athletes in other sports. Looking back, he learned the struggles he had to endure while challenging another sports icon in a field that wasn't his specialty.

    "Like I did a show it was called Shaq Vs. When I went to a race with Dale Earnhardt, that was the hardest sh*t I’ve ever done in my life. I’m sitting in the car and we were out there bro my body was so sore I was like ‘God d*mn!”

    He added: “When I went to swim against Michael Phelps, 15 percent of the game is physical and all that everything else is mental. So the things that you guys go through that’s why you guys don’t really have a long-life shelf. I think it’s what...3 to 5, 5 to 6 years? You know same thing with NBA and you know NFL, so, yes, you guys are athletes.”

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    In general, he realized that being a professional esports player is more than just a game.

    “If you guys say you’re athletes, I believe in you because I can’t do what you do,” he said.

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